Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Minning in the rain (apologies to Gene Kelly)

For years now, we’ve looked at the distinctive ring of trees that marks the ancient burial site of Minning Low. It can be seen from most areas of the White Peak, and has fascinated us but, as it is on private land, we’d never been able to visit it – UNTIL NOW! A concessionary path has been opened up, allowing access to the once-closed Minning Low. As soon as I heard about this, I planned a walk to take it in. The walk started at the quiet village of Elton. There’s a pub here called the Duke of York. It’s been run, for as long as I can remember, by a lovely lady (who never seems to age) called Mary. I think she has restricted opening times these days, but it’s a no-nonsense village pub, one of the few left now. It’s not much to look at from the outside, but the warm welcome inside, and the relaxed atmosphere more than makes up.

We set off on our 9.5 mile walk with the sky overhead a bit dark and broody. We passed the old village pump, lovingly restored and painted, probably looking even better than when it was in use.

The old and the new. Land rovers never die, they say, but this one was looking a bit terminal at the side of it’s young counterpart!

You can see the sky, and the fact that Sue already has her waterproof coat on tells a story – it had begun to rain! Much of today’s walk was through the long grass of silage meadows, so our feet became very wet, very quickly. Both our boots are not 100% waterproof, but we soldiered on.

We were amazed to see these cows grazing in a VERY ragwort-infested field. Now, I always thought that Ragwort was poisonous to certain animals, horses definitely, cows maybe, but a quick look on the internet showed me that this plant is SURROUNDED by myths! Also, we couldn’t see any dead cows! You can read all the stories here;

It’s a shame the plant is feted so, as it is quite pretty en masse.

We made our way to the tiny hamlet of Aldwark, then promptly got lost! A finger post pointed into a field, but we COULD NOT find any exit! I was just about to give up and take to the road, but saw three guys chatting in a yard. I asked, and was shown the correct way. It was obvious that the path wasn’t walked regularly. I say ‘path’, for the most part there was no semblance of one at all. Even the stiles were so bad that you couldn’t go through them – they had to be jumped over! This was typical, look beyond the stile – can YOU see a path? This section must have taken us over half an hour to navigate, when, if you knew the exact way, it could be done in ten minutes. However, not ones to be beaten, we stoically pressed on and completed it.

Next thing, we saw the unmistakeable sight of Minning Low ahead. You can see just how the way the trees, two different heights of which have been planted, give it that unusual look. I don’t know who planted the trees, or how long ago, but it distinguishes this place from every other standard copse as soon as you see it. You can find out more about the site here;

Anyway, it was time to ‘meet’ the ancestors. Before we crossed the fields though, we saw this huge flock of birds in the field. I don’t know what they were, but they moved as one. I got quite close before they all took to the air and made for that bush. (Click on the image for a larger version to see them more clearly).

As you can see, things overhead weren’t looking much brighter, but it HAD stopped raining, so we could remove our coats (it was VERY close and warm) for comfort. We tackled the short climb up to Minning Low, and investigated the area. You can see the various places where there were burial cromlechs. We’d seen this sort of thing on ancient sites all over the place. There are some very good ones in Pembrokeshire and also on the isle of Arran. You can see the Arran  ‘giants graves’ on my blog here;

Then Sue decided to have lunch with the ancestors.

As we sat and ate, the sky began to clear at last, and a peep of blue sky could be seen through the perimeter trees.

We set off to re-join the high peak trail for a short distance, looking back to the site we had at last visited.

There are some very impressive viaducts on the high peak trail, just look at the work that must have gone into shoring up this section! You can also see an old lime kiln, which is in really good condition, just below the trail.

This small plaque is bolted into the stone at the side of the trail. Easy to just walk by, but a nice touch for those who notice it.

Remnants of when this trail was used to haul stone, lime and other minerals in a bygone era. Old machinery, like this, tells a story and looks somehow sad as it sits in decay. You can find out more about the trail, the railway and other information here;

Since the railway operation ended, the trail has become a walkers and bikers paradise, giving quick and direct access to some of the prettiest parts of Derbyshire. The other thing is that the track sides have turned into a gem of wildflower breeding grounds, and hosts some very rare and important flora. Of course, there’s also the more common things like wild raspberries, which we picked and ate handfuls of. You also see apple trees, where drivers in the past have eaten their lunch, and tossed the core onto the bank where the seed has set and trees now grow. The vegetation is periodically managed by the park authority, so always looks good and healthy.

Teasels – something you don’t see very often. This bunch was right by the side of the trail.

This head was in it’s prime.

Hare bells LOVE these trails, and flourish for the most part of the year. They can be seen very early on in flower, and last until quite late in the season when most other things have given up. Again, you can see that shape of Minning Low on the horizon behind.

The trail stretched out ahead, and you can see another big viaduct as it winds to the left. The trail winds like this all along its length, which adds character to it, rather than being simply straight. The sky is looking much better now, and the sun was beginning to show itself.

Minning Low was now well behind us. This is a nice view of it over a patch of Rosebay Willowherb. The ancestors chose well, as the panorama in all directions is commanding, to say the least.

A Peak District barn sits starkly on the skyline.

Sue, with an actual SHADOW now, walks towards heaven.

We left the trail and, after crossing a couple of fields and a little road walking, dropped into Gratton Dale. I noticed this very gnarled old trunk. I’d passed this spot many times in the past, but never noticed it before? It just goes to show, there’s always something new to see, no matter how many times you walk an area.

Gratton dale, which leads down to Dale End (not surprisingly!). We were close to Elton again now, and it wouldn’t be long before we were back at the car.

The recent rains made some sections of the path a bit ‘damp’ in places – this was one of them.

I think I’ll swap my walking boots for flippers!

Again, the wildflowers here were superb. Sue and I lost count of the number of species as we began to take note. The more you looked, the more you saw, and OH, - their perfume was wonderful!

I love this one, sweet ‘something’, I think it’s called? A rose by any other name.

We ended the walk up a short hill and back into Elton, which was just as quiet as when we left it this morning! It had been a good day, if a little damp in places, and I felt really good at being able to see Minning Low ‘up close and personal’ at long last.

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